#ILookLikeAnEngineer: Working for a More Diverse Silicon Valley

A recruiting campaign by OneLogin sparked a viral movement to dispel stereotypes and show off Silicon Valley diversity.

The tech industry is not known for its diversity. Indeed, when the big tech companies released their diversity data, the numbers only served to reinforce the stereotype of an industry is populated by mostly young, white and Asian men. But there are, in fact, many women working in the tech industry, and a recruiting campaign recently turned into a viral movement to break the industry stereotype.

The recruiting ad at a San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit train station featured Isis Wegner, a full-stack engineer at OneLogin. Strangely, when someone posted a photo of the ad on Facebook, users questioned if she represented “what female software engineers look like.” Apparently her understated smile and t-shirt were too sexy.

Wegner responded with a post on Medium about gender stereotypes and sexism in the industry, then tweeted her picture with the hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer.

Other female engineers from GE, Pinterest, Facebook, Salesforce, Microsoft, the NSA, and a host of other companies followed suit to show the world what an engineer looks like.

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ListenFirst Media, a data and analytics company, said that from Aug. 2 through Aug. 11, there have been more than 146,000 mentions of #ILookLikeAnEngineer on Twitter, generating 728 million potential impressions. Mentions for the hashtag peaked on Aug. 4, when mentions hit 44,000 throughout the day. Top brands who got in on the conversation included Chevrolet (748,000 followers) and Lenovo (391,000 followers).

Tilde Pier, an international growth engineer at Pinterest posted her own picture, noting that her “hair game was on point.”

Jokes aside, she told SocialTimes that her decision to participate in the campaign was two fold:

I wanted to both inspire young girls to imagine themselves growing up to be engineers, and to help those of us who already work in the industry feel less alone.

Pier noted that considering the impact of technology on everyone’s lives, it seems unfair that the people creating those technologies are so homogeneous. As an engineer at Pinterest, Pier works for a Silicon Valley tech company that recently went on record with a goal of increasing the diversity of its staff, which includes an engineering team that is 30 percent women.

Before the industry can change, there will have to be changes at every level of the pipeline, Pier said. One such example is creating interview processes more representative of day-to-day work:

Coding on a whiteboard is a different skill set than writing code at a computer, and under-represented folks tend to perform better in less adversarial interview settings.

Wegner told The New York Times that she hoped her experience helped someone else, noting that her own manager was surprised by some of her stories. Still, she’s glad the campaign is focused on something positive, rather than reinforcing the negative stereotype.

The campaign has resonated so deeply, Michelle Glauser, a San Fracisco-based web developer launched an IndieGoGo campaign to show the faces of some of the women’s images around the Silicon Valley on a billboard. So far the Indiegogo campaign has raised more than $15,000.

The goal is simple, according to the Indiegogo page:

Together, we’d like to put up a billboard in San Francisco showing, celebrating, supporting, and encouraging that diversity.

Readers: How do you feel about the #ILookLikeAnEngineer movement?